Arboreal Platform

A breathing lab as a symbol of sustainable rainforest management

Arboreal Platform

A breathing lab as a symbol of sustainable rainforest management

FUNDECOR, a non-governmental outfit overseeing the sustainable development and management of Costa Rica’s rainforests since 1989, is looking to occupy a new signature headquarters in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí.

The concept for the 720 sqm facility is from the Mexico-based firm PLUG Architecture. Nested in a slanted wooden patch with minimal environmental impact, the building is devised as a ‘breathing lab’: a centre where experts can engage local communities in the preservation of their national resources.

The FUNDECOR headquarters is designed as a square plan with a central courtyard, much like the vernacular architecture of the region.
© PLUG Architecture / Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The four-sided structure raised on stilts is an attempt to use wood as a model of vernacular innovation. Each of the 30-m long sides supports different functional requirements.

A large multi-function room in the front wing will benefit the centre’s various education and engagement activities.
© PLUG Architecture / Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction
Preservation of cultural legacy

The simple construction means are based on local practices which ensure they’re easily implemented within a very low budget. All the wood is certified by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), in line with national forestry management.

The centre takes full advantage of being on a hillside terrain. It provides a combination of passive and active systems for its internal climate comfort.

Other sustainable measures include a bathroom flush system and sanitary waste which is linked to biodigesters that provide fertiliser for use in the forests.

The choice of material and elevated form of the structure reduce heat retention and encourage air movement through and underneath the building, thereby improving occupants’ comfort.
© PLUG Architecture / Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction
Protecting and revitalizing forest ecosystems

A unique feature of the project is its courtyard, which holds a grove of trees that symbolise FUNDECOR’s mission of protecting forest ecosystems.

The central courtyard is accessed through a sheltered corridor connecting the four wings outdoors.
© PLUG Architecture / Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

For the Arboreal Platform, PLUG Architecture won the Holcim Award Silver 2014- Latin America. Read more about the project on the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction page here.


Post sponsored by the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

Novel project is innovative in one or more ways, say material use, passive design, community engagement, etc. Performance, here, might be discussed in quantitative or qualitative ways.



Fact Sheet

Disclaimer: Location provided as reference only. Exact site may differ.

Tropical climates have warm, moist conditions year-round, with high precipitation and narrow diurnal temperature swings. These climates occur typically between 15° N to 15° S latitudes. Here, traditional architecture prioritises natural ventilation and shade for comfort.

There are no performance metrics available for this project.


Román Jesús Cordero Tovar
Izbeth Katia Mendoza Fragoso
PLUG architecture


Daniel Rodriguez
Israel Dorantes

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